Kenyan opposition agrees on alliance to block Moi: Richard Dowden, in Nairobi, assesses the portents of a flawed poll and a majority vote against the President

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The Independent Online
KENYA'S three main opposition parties met yesterday to form an alliance to block President Daniel arap Moi from taking over power after victory in the first multi- party elections in 26 years.

Officials said the leaders from the opposition Ford-Asili, Ford- Kenya and the Democratic Party of Kenya (DP), who on Friday rejected the results of Tuesday's polls, were 'working on modalities to block Moi without causing civil strife'. They said differences which split the opposition leaders before the elections had resurfaced to haunt them and they were now quibbling over who should lead the new alliance.

As the last few votes were counted, five days after the election, Mr Moi had 36 per cent, 10 points ahead of his nearest rival, Kenneth Matiba of Ford-Asili. Mwai Kibaki of the Democratic Party (DP) was third with 19 per cent, leading Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the Ford-Kenya leader, with 17 per cent. Mr Moi's party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), which has ruled Kenya since independence, had 91 seats, Ford-Asili had 29, Ford- Kenya, had 28 seats, and the DP had 20. With the 12 parliamentary seats the president can nominate, this gives Mr Moi a comfortable majority.

But underlying the numbers are some terrifying portents for the country. The majority of Kenyans voted against Mr Moi. Had the opposition leaders not fallen out, an alliance between any two of them would have defeated him. In Central Province, the heartland of the Kikuyu, the most populous and richest group, Mr Moi polled only 2 per cent of the vote. He got only 14 per cent in Nyanza, the province dominated by the Luo people, and 16 per cent in Nairobi, which contains the country's professional classes as well as huge volatile slums.

As prophesied by President Moi, the multi-party election has left the country deeply divided. Kenyan politics have traditionally been pork-barrel - the goodies have gone to the loyalists. The two largest ethnic groups and much of the educated classes could be virtually disenfranchised by their opposition to Mr Moi, and who knows how the poor in the shanty towns will react? Some 800 people died in political violence last year and there is talk of war.

Western governments have chosen to accept the result of the election even though they, and observer groups, have declared that it was seriously flawed. A senior member of one observer group said yesterday that the reason that Western governments have accepted the result was the fear that a call to re-run the election could plunge Kenya into chaos. They may also judge that an effective opposition will be enough to curb corruption and misrule in Kenya. So the Americans, the Commonwealth Observer Group and the European Community have criticised the election but blinked at the prospect of denouncing it and calling for a re-run.

Smith Hempstone, the US ambassador, who has been one of the strongest supporters of the multi- party democracy movement, said the election was not conducted on a level playing-field but he told the losers that they should accept defeat. 'I can only sympathise with them as it is too late for them to unite,' he said.

In his assessment of the election, Mr Hempstone said the 'resources of the state were used to ensure the President's re-election and it was all but impossible for the opposition to function in (two key provinces)'. In the parliamentary and civic elections conducted at the same time 'the democratic process was frustrated', Mr Hempstone said, adding that it was a 'poorly run election'. But he also said 'the balloting itself seems to have gone well' and that it was 'a major step in the democratisation process in Kenya'.

The decision to accept the result of the election is in marked contrast to Mr Hempstone's cavalier disregard for the destabilising effects of his previous policy in favour of democracy. But it is understandable that with the US operation in Somalia deeply dependent on port and airport facilities in Kenya, the US does not want to say anything that might destabilise the country at the moment.

The European Community, led by Britain, which never wanted an election in the first place, has also recommended acceptance of the results, urging dissatisfied losers to take their cases to court. The courts in Kenya are not known for their impartiality, especially in cases involving the government.

The Commonwealth group, too, is in some disarray. Its only mandate was to 'ascertain whether in its impartial judgement . . . the elections have been free and fair'. Judge Telford George, the group's chairman, however, told a press conference on his departure: 'Let us not stress on the question of whether the elections were free and fair. I think that the emphasis which is being put on the fairness and freeness of the election is a bit too heavy.'

He, too, recommended the losers to accept the result even though his group's report noted: 'It was evident to us from the start that some aspects of the election were not fair including the registration process, the nomination process, the lack of transparency, the intimidation, the partisanship of state-owned radio and television, and the reluctance of the government to de-link itself from the ruling party.'

One member of the Commonwealth team said it was the worst election he had ever witnessed, adding ominously: 'It was worse than Uganda in 1980.' After that election Milton Obote returned as President, plunging the country into the bloodiest period of its history. The Commonwealth declared the election 'broadly free and fair' but it was not accepted in substantial parts of Uganda.

The Scandinavian-Canadian monitoring group, from countries with the least commercial or political interest in Kenya, also condemned the election. Their report spoke of serious delays in opening polling stations, lack of election materials, shifting of polling stations at the last moment, lack of preparation and numerous irregularities during the counting phase.

Having gone for the easy option of accepting the election result, Western governments may now try to use their aid leverage to force Mr Moi into a government of national unity. But judging from recent statements, Mr Moi, already deeply resentful at outside interference, does not appear to be in a forgiving mood. 'I have restrained myself despite abuse for the past 12 months. This will now cease,' he said at the weekend.

Leading article, page 14

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